If your eyes could see temperatures as bright colors this image is what Cyclone Felleng, north of Madagascar, looked like on the night of Jan. 28 (and you would have to be high in space as well, of course). The black, white and purple are the coldest upper regions of the storm, which according to NASA folks, rose to about 170,000 (52,000 meters) feet above sea level.

Think about that for a second. That’s 32 miles (52 km) up, or almost five times higher than commercial airliners fly. It’s no wonder such storms have a big effects on the stratosphere. They are, quite literally, the Earth’s “up” escalator from the troposphere (where the weather is and we live) into the stratosphere, as it was explained to me a few years back by one of NASA’s atmospheric physicists. It’s via these tropical storms that man-made pollutants travel, and eventually move towards the poles and do things like destroy the ozone layer.

This image is yet another fantastic product of the new NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite.  The full storm history and more images are available on NASA’s Hurricane Web Page: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hurricanes/archives/2013/h2013

Credit: William Straka, UWM/NASA/NOAA